The good news is that child marriage is on the decline in our country. A recent press report, quoting a latest survey said that the prevalence of child marriage in the country has dropped by 17 percentage points in the last three years.
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) jointly conducted the survey on two lakh families in 2016.
The survey shows 35 per cent of women aged 20-24 years were married before 18 in 2016. The prevalence rate was 52 per cent in 2013, and 65 per cent in 2011.
Meanwhile, a praiseworthy National Multimedia Campaign for Ending Child Marriage was launched in the capital on 31st July 2017.
As per the press report, the campaign was launched under the ‘Enabling Environment for Child Rights’ Programme of UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. Key partners include UNICEF and UNFPA. Funding has been provided by the Government of Canada. The campaign has been produced by Asiatic JWT. Other partners include the Ministry of Information.
The prevailing situation mentioned below was the reason behind launching of the campaign:
Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world and the practice remains socially acceptable in many parts of the country.
Child marriage is driven by a range of socio-economic and cultural factors and maintained by tradition. Factors that increase the risk of child marriage in Bangladesh include poverty and fear for girls’ safety and security, as well as a complex tangle of social norms and beliefs.
Social norms are of an informational nature and spread through personal interaction and networks. They prevail because of perceived or real societal pressure on individuals. Individual actions conform to the norm of the society to reduce cost of social sanction. Due to the nature of social norms, effective communication is critical in challenging and changing them when they are considered harmful as in the case of child marriage.
Strategic media and communication, based on information dissemination and dialogue, can provide evidence of the impact of these norms and practices as well as the need for change; promote a new reality of the desired ‘normal’; and address perceived social pressure, beliefs and expectations through accelerating public intolerance. The National Multimedia Campaign is a step towards this direction.
The campaign declares child marriage as unacceptable, because it is:
Harmful: child marriage does not protect or benefit a girl. It robs her of her childhood and opportunities in life. It does not benefit any community or society; an educated youth paves the way for a better future for the country.
Illegal: Child marriage is illegal, the laws are very clear and it is a punishable offence. Ignorance and negligence are not to be an excuse.
Outdated: More and more people are moving away from child marriage. It is not necessary, and it is damaging to a society.
The campaign promotes prevention as a universal personal responsibility. The campaign is designed to make prevention and active rejection of child marriage everyone’s responsibility. It focuses on positive actions, and seeks to promote the idea that when individual actions are added together, they can create a collective movement that ultimately contributes to larger social change.
Everyone has a role to play and something they can do:
Research: Learn more about the impacts and effects of child marriage.
Refrain: Abstain from participating in or attending child marriages within your family, neighbourhood and larger community.
Resist: Resist any attempts that engage you in organising or facilitating a child marriage.
Raise Voice: Raise your voice against any child marriage that is being planned or taking place within your family, neighbourhood or larger community.
Rally: Mobilise and connect with your family, friends, neighbours, larger community and local authorities to take a stand against child marriage.
Report: Reach out to, and inform, your respective local authorities about any planned or occurring child marriage events within your family, neighbourhood or larger community.
Campaign theme: ‘Raise the Beat’
Using the traditional ‘Dhol’ or drum as a symbol of gaining attention and voicing protest, the campaign suggests a beat or rhythm for everyone to rally around together to raise their voice and report child marriage. The aim is to trigger an easy, participatory and highly visible action that reflects increasing public intolerance and action against child marriage.
Balya biye rukhte hole, Awaz ṫolo ṫale ṫale
[Raise the beat to end child marriage]